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Twins drop series opener to Royals

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What happened to all that offense that showed up for the Cleveland series? Or pitching for that matter?

After scoring 24 runs, averaging six per game against the Indians, the Will Smith and the Royals stop the Twins bats cold and Kansas City would, as Ron Gardenhire would say after the game, hit the fire out of the ball.

The Twins offense was far from the productive group it has shown against Cleveland, and gave the Royals pitchers very little to sweat about.

In the bottom of the fifth, down by four runs, the Twins mounted what would end up being their best assault on the Royals. With no one out, Darin Mastroianni and Eduardo Escobar drew back-to-back walks and put pressure on the rookie lefty Will Myers. Myers, to his credit, battled through the two free passes and struck out Pedro Florimon on a slider in the dirt.

And then the Twins ran themselves out of opportunities.

In the next at bat, Mastroianni broke for third only to be gunned down by Salvador Perez. Up until that point, Mastroianni had been successful in 19 of 21 attempts including eight-for-eight when swiping third – basically money in the bank. Perez, however, has a cannon of an arm behind the plate and had erased 10-of-28 would-be base stealers heading into Tuesday’s game.

“You gotta make sure in those situations; you can’t get thrown out in those situations,” Gardenhire said after the game. The Twins manager would go on to rave about Perez’s handling of baserunners, noting the quick feet, quick release and sidearm style in which Perez throw out Mastroianni.

Josh Willingham, who went 1-for-4 in Tuesday’s game, summarized what made the rookie Will Smith effective against the Twins lineup. “He didn’t walk too many, pitched ahead in the count, pitched to the corners and did all the good things a pitcher needs to do.”

Meanwhile, Scott Diamond, who has now thrown a career high 148.1 innings, was roughed up a bit, leaving some pitches up and walking a season-high three batters.

“He was OK,” Gardenhire remarked. “Got a lot of pitches up and didn’t bury the pitches like he normally does.”

Diamond was dinged by some early defensive misplays by Josh Willingham in the second inning. Willingham, who took left field for the first time since September 1st, tentatively charged a looping fliner off the bat of Eric Hosmer which fell in for a single. One batter later, Lorenzo Cain got under one of Diamond’s change-ups high above the stadium’s light towers.

Willingham immediately threw his hands up, acknowledging he did not see the fly ball. The ball landed ten feet behind him and allowed the two runners on to score and Cain to trot into third with a gimme triple.

The Twins left fielder would shrug it off as a bad day at the office. “It’s frustrating when you can’t see the ball. I would like for that stuff not to happen.”

Of course, the Royals would not need to assistance of a befuddled Twins defense all night. After all, the racked up another six extra base hits and would give the Target Field grounds crew the night off after they raked everywhere on the field. It would be the fifth time this year the Twins pitchers would allow 16 or more hits in a game – and the second time in the season the Royals would put up that many.

Diamond would not blame the outing on the added time off between starts thanks to the expanded rotation.

“I feel a little inconsistent right now,” Diamond said following his six inning, ten-hit, four-run outing. “I feel like my stuff is getting to where it needs to be but my fastball’s location is a little off; my command is just a little off. It’s something that you have to battle with.”
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